Review: understanding planning issues in city logistics

Urban freight transportation encompasses freight vehicles whose primary purpose is to carry goods into, out of, and within urban areas. For the city inhabitants, it supplies stores and places of work and leisure, delivers goods at home, provides the means to eliminate waste, etc. It forms a vital link for firms with suppliers and customers within the city limits and elsewhere in the world. There are indeed few activities in a city that do not require at least some commodities being moved.

Efficient urban freight transportation and logistics are major enabling factors for city life and development. However, it is also a major disturbing factor regarding congestion, pollution, safety, and security. The new organization and business models known as City Logistics (CL) have emerged to address these issues, aiming to conciliate and jointly “optimize” the economic and social goals of sustainable urban transportation and logistics activities.

Although CL definitions vary, a consensus emerges of CL as an integrated logistics system based on cooperation among stakeholders, resource sharing, consolidation, synchronization of operations, multi-and intermodal transportation, and separating commercial transactions generating goods movements from the planning and execution of the corresponding activities. Each element’s degree and way of inclusion define problem variants and applications, as described in this chapter.

City Logistics are complex transportation and logistics systems. This follows from (1) the interactions between the demand to move and, eventually, store freight on its way from origins to destinations, and supply, i.e., the infrastructure, resources, and service networks developed to answer it; (2) the diversity of stakeholders and decision-makers involved; and (3) the nature of CL as part of both the extensive urban transportation system, where people and goods flow while objectives and requirements meet and often conflict, and of regional, national, and international networks.

Operations Research (OR) provides the methodology to design and deploy the advanced planning and management decision-support systems needed to account for this complexity, address the associated challenges, and reach the CL goals of service, economic, and environmental efficiency. A good understanding of planning issues is needed first to use OR successfully.

In the recently published Handbook on City Logistics and Urban Freight (2023), Crainic et al. present the main planning issues in city logistics on strategic, tactical, and operational levels, real-time execution, and review proposed methodologies for using OR in city logistics planning and management. It’s a very valuable publication for everyone involved in improving city logistics and developing planning and IT solutions.

Source: Crainic, T. G., Feliu, J. G., Ricciardi, N., Semet, F., & Van Woensel, T. (2023). 10. Operations research for planning and managing city logistics systems. Handbook on City Logistics and Urban Freight: 0, 190.

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